Rhode Island will purchase the remaining 82 acres of the Rocky Point seaside property in Warwick for $9.7 million to develop as a state park, using open-space bond money that voters approved in 2010.
The U.S. Small Business Administration, acting as receiver for Moneta Capital Corp., approved the state’s request on Monday, Gov. Lincoln Chafee announced. The SBA needs approval from the U.S. District Court for the District of Rhode Island, a process that could take months.
The SBA had held the property as receiver, blocking landward access to the public. Several developers have failed in their attempts to develop the property, best known for an amusement park that closed in 1995.
“We will need to carefully plan for its future,” Chafee said of 150-year-old Rocky Point, which sits 10 miles from downtown Providence.
Warwick purchased 41 acres in 2007, under a partnership that included the state and the federal government. U.S. Sen. Jack Reed obtained a $2.2 million federal grant for that purchase
The city opened the waterfront portion for public use by developing a parking area and walkway, installing landscaping and demolishing vacant, derelict summer cottages.
Ocean State voters in 2010 approved a $10 million bond measure by a 65-to-35 percent margin. The nonprofit Rocky Point Foundation pushed for bond approval with help from another citizens group, Save the Bay.
The foundation expects to hold public meetings regarding the use of the new park.
“While there are several steps yet to come, the collaborative nature of this effort — and the overwhelming support of the public, and federal, state and local officials — make me very optimistic,” said state Department of Environmental management director Janet Coit.
The New York Times in 1900 called Rocky Point “the Coney Island of Rhode Island” and philanthropist John Jacob Astor entertained his Newport friends there.
In 1914, Babe Ruth, playing for the Providence Reds, hit a home run into Narragansett Bay.
Rocky Point’s other attractions have included nature trails, a ferry pier, an observation tower, hotels, clambakes, restaurants, a swimming pool and concerts.
Filmmaker David Bettencourt memorialized the park in his 2007 documentary: “You Must Be This Tall: The Story of Rocky Point Park.”